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    Roger Federer finished with a flurry of aces and advanced to the fourth round of the Miami Open by beating Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 6-3 Monday. In the final game, Federer smacked aces on the first three points. An ace on the next point was overturned by a replay review, and instead Krajinovic dumped the last shot into the net. Federer finished with 14 aces and pulled away after converting only one of his first eight break-point chances. Seeded fourth, Federer improved to 14-2 this year. He made his Miami debut 20 years ago and won the tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2017, when it was played on Key Biscayne. ___ More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis
  • As part of the celebration of its 100th season, the NFL will break from tradition and feature the Packers vs. the Bears in its season opener Sept. 5. Usually, the Super Bowl champion is the home team for the prime-time opener, but the league wants to salute historic rivalries in 2019. None fits better than Chicago-Green Bay. The teams have met 198 times since 1921, when the Bears were the Chicago Staleys. Green Bay leads the series 97-95-6, including the clubs splitting two postseason games. Staging the Thursday night game at Chicago's Soldier Field — even if it is a modernized version of the stadium — adds to the theme. This will be the first time since 2003 the Super Bowl champion has not hosted the opener. New England instead will open at home in the prime-time game Sunday night, Sept. 8. The opponent has not yet been determined. The full schedule will be announced next month. 'With the 100th season, we want to do something to kick it off in a special way,' said Hans Schroeder, the league's chief operating officer of media. 'We're celebrating the Bears, one of the original member clubs, in their 100th season, and the Packers are in their 101st. It's an iconic matchup.' Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel invoked the name of George Halas, the team's founder, in welcoming the news. 'George 'Papa Bear' Halas and the NFL's co-founders probably didn't imagine the federation they established 100 years ago in cities and towns across the Midwest would one day be the most successful professional sports league in the world,' Emanuel said in a statement. 'But that's what their vision achieved. Chicago — the most American of American cities — is the perfect venue for this game.' Schroeder and Brian Rolapp, the NFL's chief media and business officer, outlined other plans for the 100th season: NFL Films will produce a series that selects the 100 greatest teams, plays, games, characters and game changers; an all-time team is being chosen and will be featured in a TV series; and Peyton Manning will talk to fans around the country about the history of the NFL for another television series. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_
  • President Donald Trump welcomed Alex Ovechkin and the reigning NHL champion Washington Capitals to the Oval Office on Monday to congratulate them for winning the Stanley Cup in June. Trump said it was an honor to host the team because he is a hockey fan and a Capitals fan. The president called the Capitals 'winners' and said there is 'an awfully good chance' they will repeat this season. 'You brought the Stanley Cup home,' Trump said. 'Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place. And I have a feeling you're going to be doing it again. You're champions. You have a champion's heart.' Players, coaches and staff members took a private 45-minute tour of the White House and met with Trump in what was a last chance to be around hockey's sacred trophy as defending champions. 'It's a good reminder of the special things that our group did,' coach Todd Reirden said after practice earlier Monday. 'That will kind of put a wrap on it and the final chapter of that moving forward into finishing up the regular season here and moving some of that success into playoffs this year.' Two players on the current roster, Canadians Braden Holtby and Brett Connolly, and Devante Smith-Pelly, who is in the minors, did not visit the White House. Smith-Pelly in June cited Trump's rhetoric, and Holtby last week said he had to stay true to his values and respectfully decline. In the days since the team scheduled its visit, Holtby and his teammates explained their stances on going or declining while also shifting the focus back to the ice where the Capitals are trying to repeat as champions like the rival Pittsburgh Penguins did. 'The more important thing is we're just gearing up for a playoff run, and (different decisions on going or not going are) not going to hurt team unity,' Holtby said Friday. 'I hope they have a good experience there and then we can get back to hockey.' The rest of the team was in attendance, along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who wore a Capitals Stanley Cup champions hat. Trump called daughter Ivanka a friend and fan of Ovechkin's, compared him to Babe Ruth and also singled out owner Ted Leonsis and American defenseman John Carlson during his remarks. Trump called Ovechkin a 'very special athlete, a great player.' 'It's huge honor for us to be here and meet you personally,' said Ovechkin, the Capitals' Russian-born captain and playoff MVP. 'We're going to try to (win) again. We have same team, experienced team, very good group of guys and we're going to try to do it again.' The visit comes a day after Attorney General William Barr released a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report that found no evidence Trump's campaign 'conspired or coordinated' with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Trump did not take questions from reporters. Several Capitals players said going to the White House wasn't about politics. American Brooks Orpik, who went in 2009 with the Penguins to visit then-President Barack Obama, said the decision to go is 'not an endorsement of whoever's in the office.' The Capitals presented Trump with a red No. 45 jersey and a gold, engraved stick. Trump took individual pictures with players and staff and gave them pens and M&Ms before they left. Leonsis called visiting the Oval Office a 'true thrill for all of the players and the organization.' Carlson said: 'It's an honor to be here. I think all of us looked very much forward to it.' The Capitals' White House visit came nine-plus months after their first title in franchise history and with six games left in the regular season before the playoffs begin. Washington is in first place and again is a top contender. 'I think you're going to be successful,' Trump said. 'Very proud of you guys. Good luck. We're going to be watching.' ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • As spring training neared its conclusion, a reporter mentioned to Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez that Max Scherzer was not precisely on schedule to start on opening day. 'He's going to be lined up,' Martinez said with a laugh. 'Come Thursday at 1:05, he'll be on the mound.' Of course he will. Scherzer is, after all, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and runner-up last season. So it makes perfect sense that when Washington hosts the NL East rival New York Mets this week, Scherzer will take on the pitcher who topped him in the NL voting, Jacob deGrom. 'It definitely has its prestige,' Scherzer said. 'It's symbolic. It's an honor to get the ball in that situation.' That's because even in this data-driven age in baseball, when analytics and analysis are supposed to be replacing 'gut feel' and sentiment when it comes to making any and all decisions, granting an opening day start to a particular pitcher because of his status rather than his statistics is something of a remnant of a bygone era. So what if your team, say, is facing an all-righty lineup? If a right-hander seems like the proper guy to send out there for Game 1, managers tend to do it. 'There's still a hierarchy on your pitching staff. And certainly when you have established, veteran guys, it still matters to them,' said Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who will use Justin Verlander on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays and 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. 'It also matters to your team. People want to name guys 'aces.'' The choice is often an obvious one, such as for Mets-Nationals and Astros-Rays. Other times, though, it can get complicated, and this year is no exception. Take the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their natural pick would Clayton Kershaw, but the lefty is beginning the season on the injured list. Walker Buehler and Rich Hill were ruled out, too. So the World Series runners-up the past two years are going with Hyun-Jin Ryu against Zach Greinke, an easier pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sometimes, there's not a bevy of optimal options. Coming off a 115-loss season, the Baltimore Orioles planned to go with Alex Cobb to face the New York Yankees on Thursday, before the righty had groin soreness in his final exhibition tuneup Sunday. Cobb was 5-15 with a 4.90 ERA in 2018. Fact is, Baltimore's top two other starters — 'top' being relative, of course — also each took at least 15 Ls a year ago. Yankees manager Aaron Boone counters with Masahiro Tanaka, because Luis Severino is sidelined with right shoulder inflammation. It'll be Tanaka's fourth start in the past five opening days for New York, which went 0-3 in his others. 'Obviously, if you're given the opportunity to pitch on that day, you want to go out and do your best,' Tanaka said through a translator. 'If you look back, I don't think I've necessarily been good on opening days.' Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais went away from tradition for his team's opener against the Oakland Athletics in Japan last week, bypassing Felix Hernandez, who had made 10 consecutive Game 1 starts, the longest active streak in the majors and surpassed by only four pitchers in history (Hall of Famer Jack Morris holds the record of 14 in a row). Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, boasts a 1.53 ERA in opening day appearances but struggled this spring, to the tune of a 15.95 ERA. 'We try to take as much of the emotion out of it as you can,' Servais said, 'and do what's best for our ballclub.' Still, King Felix did not hide his displeasure at giving up a slot he'd held for a full decade. Instead, Marco Gonzalez and Yusei Kikuchi started for Seattle in the two overseas games that officially got the season going. As much as getting that initial pitching assignment clearly counts for something to many, Houston's Hinch knows the next 161 games are equally valuable in the standings. 'We should continue to make it a big deal to start on opening day,' Hinch said. 'And we should make it a bigger deal to take your 33, 34 starts and go wire-to-wire.' ___ AP Sports Writer Jake Seiner in Peoria, Arizona, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Bill Self stood in a room just off the court in Allen Fieldhouse on Selection Sunday and lamented that the Big 12 managed to squeak only six schools into the NCAA Tournament. The Hall of Fame coach of Kansas pointed to the impressive nonconference wins that the league racked up in November and December. He highlighted the fact that the league had four of the top seven teams when it came to strength of schedule, including his Jayhawks at No. 1. Well, so much for all of that. The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a slap in the face to a league that habitually considers itself the toughest in college basketball. Regular-season co-champion Kansas State was beaten by UC Irvine in the biggest first-round upset, and Big 12 Tournament champ Iowa State lost to No. 11 seed Ohio State in what may have been the second-biggest upset. All told, the league managed to send only Texas Tech to the Sweet 16, one year after it made up a quarter of all teams in the regional semifinals and still had three left in the Elite Eight. 'We're not supposed to be here,' said Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, whose team is left carrying the banner for the entire league after sharing the regular-season crown with the Wildcats. 'They picked us bottom of the Big 12 and we haven't gotten much respect this year,' Beard continued, 'but these guys have continued to keep a chip on their shoulder and just realize that we can do a lot of things if we continue to play as a team.' The Red Raiders have been impressive after limping into the tournament off a stunning loss to lowly West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney. The No. 3 seed in the East Region cruised past Northern Kentucky, then routed sixth-seeded Buffalo to reach the Sweet 16. The rest of the Big 12 will be watching as they face No. 2 seed Michigan on Thursday night. 'This means everything to me,' said star guard Jarrett Culver, who has led the Red Raiders to back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time. 'I'm glad to be part of it, making history like that. It's a blessing to be something — be a part of something that special.' The entire conference actually got off to a pretty special start, winning its first four games in the opening round. But things went off the rails when the Wildcats and Cyclones went down in the first round, and the league continued to take its lumps over the weekend. Auburn never gave the Jayhawks a chance in an 89-75 victory . Virginia shut down Oklahoma with its vaunted defense. Gonzaga had no problem with Baylor in advancing to the Sweet 16. That left Texas Tech as the lone Big 12 team in a regional final, matching the fewest the league has sent to the second weekend since getting shut out in 1998 — its second year in existence. And if the Red Raiders lose to the Wolverines? The last time the Big 12 failed to get a team to the Elite Eight was 2015, when both of its Sweet 16 entrants got knocked off. 'The thing about it is, it's been a challenging year,' Self said. 'I thought our kids hung in there and did a great job, for the most part. Their attitudes and everything was terrific. We didn't muster up enough momentum like some past teams have to probably go on a run like other teams have.' Self is right in that there were some things beyond the Big 12's control. In the case of the Jayhawks, they lost star center Udoka Azubuike to season-ending wrist surgery, veteran guard Lagerald Vick left the team and Silvio de Sousa was rendered ineligible by the NCAA after his name surfaced in connection with the FBI probe into Adidas and college basketball corruption. Baylor had to reinvent itself after losing talented forward Tristan Clark to a season-ending knee injury, while Kansas State played long stretches without point guards Kamau Stokes and Cartier Diarra, then entered the postseason without leading scorer Dean Wade because of a foot injury. West Virginia dealt with injuries, defections and all manner of off-the-court strife. Part of the fallout was that the Big 12 failed to get the same kind of NCAA Tournament seeding that it has in past years, and that in turn resulted in tough early matchups. Gonzaga and Virginia are both No. 1 seeds, and Kansas lost to a team in Auburn that just won the SEC Tournament. 'I got to be honest with you,' Self said, 'when I saw Auburn as the five in our bracket, I'm going, 'I just watched them play and they're fast,' and those are the teams we struggle most against.' Kansas expects to retool heading into next season, particularly if several of its players declare early for the NBA draft. Other schools are young enough that there is reason for optimism heading into next season, and several have solid recruiting classes already in the fold. For everyone but Texas Tech, the work toward next year's NCAA Tournament already has begun. 'I feel bad for whoever has to play us next year,' Baylor's King McClure said, 'because we're going to be pretty good. The guys following up, another year of growth, summer of work. That is one thing I can say about this group. We work hard, we stay in the gym. The transfers we got coming in. I just feel bad for next year because I think we're going to be very talented and be very special.' ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The path to the Final Four will not be easy for Zion Williamson, Luke Maye, De'Andre Hunter and the other top-seeded stars in the NCAA Tournament. For the first time in a decade, the remaining tournament field entering the Sweet 16 looks a lot like the one set on Selection Sunday. The headlining teams are still around after avoiding upsets — some pretty serious scares, too. Hello, Duke! — during an opening weekend that went unusually according to plan. Fourteen of the top 16, including all of the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, reached the regional semifinals. The last time that happened was 2009. The Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Big Ten conferences gobbled up 12 of the 16 slots, with the ACC having a national-best five teams — led by top seeds Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — followed by the SEC's four and the Big Ten's three. Here is a look at the updated paths in each region to reach the Final Four in Minneapolis: EAST Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, yet the Blue Devils are fortunate to still be alive after UCF had two shots for the win roll off the rim in the final seconds Sunday. 'We had a lot of foul trouble, and we are young, and we're not deep,' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, 'but we're good.' And now the Blue Devils (31-5) face a regional bracket in Washington that still has the top four seeds. Duke faces No. 4 seed and fellow ACC member Virginia Tech (26-8), a rematch from one of Duke's losses during the nearly six full games that Williamson, the star freshman, was out with a knee injury. Yet the Hokies — in the tournament's second weekend for the second time in program history — will have point guard Justin Robinson, who missed 12 games with a foot injury and didn't play in that February win. Friday's other semifinal will be No. 2 seed Michigan State (30-6) against No. 3 seed LSU (28-6) — which is still without suspended coach Will Wade amid a federal investigation into corruption within the sport. WEST Gonzaga, too, sits atop a 1-2-3-4 bracket. The Zags (32-3) had little trouble reaching a national-best fifth straight Sweet 16. Now they find themselves in a familiar scenario: playing Florida State in the regional semifinals for the second straight year. The fourth-seeded Seminoles (29-7) won last year's meeting and have plenty of confidence after beating Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals. 'I thought they were really, really underseeded,' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, adding: 'You have to beat really good teams to advance in this thing. So, we knew we were going to have to play somebody really good, and Florida State is no doubt that.' Thursday's other semifinal in Anaheim, California, could be a rugged fight between No. 2 seed Michigan (30-6) and No. 3 seed Texas Tech (28-6). They're the top two teams in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings, with the Red Raiders first (85.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) followed by the Wolverines (85.8). SOUTH Virginia is finally free of its UMBC failure. The Cavaliers spent the year playing in the shadow of last year's first-round loss to UMBC, the only 16-vs-1 upset in tournament history. And they were confronted with it again when they trailed No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb by 14 in the first half of Friday's game. But Virginia found its steady, defensive-minded form after halftime , then beat Oklahoma to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. 'You talk about trying to focus in and then getting down, it was real,' coach Tony Bennett said. 'So I think those guys will have that as something they can always draw upon to say we faced a giant and battled through it.' Now Virginia (31-3) faces No. 12 seed Oregon, the only double-digit seed left in a heavyweight field, in pursuit of its first Final Four trip under Bennett. Thursday's other semifinal in Louisville, Kentucky, has No. 2 seed Tennessee (31-5) meeting No. 3 seed Purdue (25-9) after eventful second-round games for both. The Vols survived in overtime against Iowa after blowing a 25-point lead to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. As for the Boilermakers, Carsen Edwards had a career-best 42 points in a rout of 2018 champion Villanova. MIDWEST Top-seeded North Carolina (29-6) leads a bracket that nearly went chalk, with No. 5 seed Auburn joining Oregon as the only surviving teams from outside the top 16 seeds. Yet the biggest question surrounding Friday's games in Kansas City hovers around No. 2 seed Kentucky and PJ Washington. The Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder missed the first two NCAA games while wearing a hard cast on his sprained left foot. 'I know this, he really wants to play,' Kentucky coach John Calipari said before a second-round win against Wofford. 'But I also want to feel comfortable that if he gets on the court that there's nothing he can do to himself, and the doctors have pretty much said that. So it's just, 'OK, when is it healed enough that he can go?'' The Wildcats (29-6) meet third-seeded Houston (33-3), which set a school record for wins when they beat Ohio State on Sunday. In the other semifinal, UNC looks to keep rolling when it faces the Tigers (28-9) — who peaked at No. 7 in the AP Top 25 in December, fell out of the poll, then had a late-season surge to win the SEC Tournament and blow out Kansas on Saturday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25 ___ Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
  • CBS Sports and Turner Sports say television ratings for the NCAA Tournament across four networks that broadcast the first week of games were up 8 percent over last year. Tournaments games drew an average Nielsen rating of 6.4, up from 5.9 last year. The rating got a boost from the dramatic Duke-UCF game on Sunday. The Blue Devils' one-point victory earned an 11.9 rating, up 35 percent from the game that aired in that same television window last year. The game had the second-highest rating in that time slot in the 29 years since the tournament expanded to its current format. Ratings represent the percentage of U.S. television households tuned into a program. CBS and Turner also announced Monday that NCAA March Madness Live set a new high for live streams and live hours of consumption, up more than 25 percent from last year. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The Supreme Court said Monday it won't step in to referee a copyright dispute between Nike and a photographer who took a well-known image of basketball great Michael Jordan. That means lower court rulings for the athletic apparel maker will stand. Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester sued Nike after it used an image he took of Jordan in the 1980s as inspiration for a photograph it commissioned for its own ads. The company's photo, which was used on posters and billboards, then became the basis for the 'Jumpman' logo for Nike's Air Jordan shoes. Rentmeester sued Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike in 2015 saying both the Nike photo and logo infringed on his copyright image. Rentmeester's original photo of Jordan was taken for Life magazine in 1984, while Jordan was a student at the University of North Carolina. It shows Jordan holding a basketball in his left hand and leaping, ballet-like toward a basketball hoop. At the time, Jordan was preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympics, which were being held in Los Angeles. In the photo, Jordan is wearing the U.S. Olympic team uniform. Both Rentmeester's photo and Nike's photo involve a basketball hoop at the right side of the image and were taken from a similar angle. Jordan's pose is similar in both photos. But in the Nike photo, Jordan is wearing the red and black of the Chicago Bulls, which he joined in 1984, and the Chicago skyline is the background. One other difference: In Rentmeester's photo, Jordan is wearing Converse. Rentmeester cried foul, argued that the differences between his photo and Nike's were 'minor,' and said that nearly every original element in his photo also appeared in Nike's. Lower courts ruled for Nike. ___ Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko
  • Ehab Amin started the second half by cheering on his Oregon teammates from the bench during a scoring drought that seemed like it would never end. When the fifth-year senior got into the game, he provided a jolt of energy that carried Oregon to the Sweet 16. Amin's 3-pointer ended a run of 14 straight points for UC Irvine and provided the pivotal spark that helped the Ducks became the lone double-digit seed to advance to next weekend by beating UC Irvine 73-54 on Sunday night. 'Once we got a couple of baskets, our energy level went way up,' coach Dana Altman said. 'Ehab had some key steals and then we just started bouncing around again. But we were stuck in the mud. I put them to sleep at halftime with my speech.' Payton Pritchard led 12th-seeded Oregon (25-12) with 18 points, Louis King added 16 and Amin had 12 points and three steals. The Ducks have won 10 straight after a lackluster start to the season and will play top-seeded Virginia in the South Regional semifinal on Thursday. 'They fought back and came back and we could have been dead in the water again, but we're resilient,' Pritchard said. 'Just credit to this team and what we're capable of.' After going more than seven minutes without scoring to start the second half and squandering all of a 12-point lead, Oregon used a 15-3 run to take control and end a 17-game winning streak for the 13th-seeded Anteaters (31-6). Amin started it with a 3-pointer and caused two turnovers. Pritchard scored seven points in the spurt, and the game quickly turned into a laugher with Kenny Wooten getting a block on one end and an alley-oop on the other to make it 68-49 with just more than two minutes to play. Robert Cartwright scored 14 points and Evan Leonard added 11 for UC Irvine, which came into the game with longest active winning streak in the nation. 'I feel like we gave everything we had, and I know the final score isn't indicative of how hard we played tonight and our entire season, but looking back on it, we're extremely grateful that we've had this experience,' Cartwright said. 'I know we believe we could have gone farther.' The Anteaters looked like an entirely different team coming out of halftime starting with a 3-pointer by Cartwright on the opening possession. That started a run of 14 points in a row that put UC Irvine ahead 37-35 on a layup by Cartwright. The Ducks missed their first 11 shots from the field and committed four turnovers before finally breaking through on Amin's 3-pointer that ended a drought of 7:32. Amin then drew a charge, and King followed with another 3 that put Oregon up 41-37 midway through the half. 'As soon as Ehab made that basket I knew he was going to turn it on for us,' Wooten said. 'Then he got a charge. That's all the energy we needed.' Wooten capped the 15-3 burst with an emphatic dunk that made it 50-40. The Ducks jumped on top early and used a 10-1 run featuring an emphatic slam by Wooten to take a 27-16 lead. They led 35-23 at the break. BIG PICTURE UC Irvine: The most successful season in Anteaters history has come to an end. They set a school record for wins, won the Big West Tournament title and got the first NCAA Tournament win in school history. They put up a good fight against the more talented Ducks but ultimately fell short. Oregon: After stumbling along at 15-12 late last month following a three-game losing streak, the Ducks look like the team ranked 14th in the preseason poll. With Pritchard as the floor leader, Amin providing energy and Wooten patrolling the inside, they are back in the Sweet 16 two years after making a Final Four run. BLOCK PARTY About the only thing going well for the Ducks during that second-half drought was Wooten's defense. He had two impressive blocks at the rim against Jonathan Galloway and Cartwright to prevent Oregon from falling even further behind. He finished the game with seven blocks and had 11 overall on the weekend. UP NEXT Oregon advances to play Virginia on Thursday in the Sweet 16 in Louisville, Kentucky. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/MarchMadness and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Virginia coach Tony Bennett made a last-minute change in his starting lineup and the top-seeded Cavaliers finally breezed through an NCAA Tournament game to make their first Sweet 16 in three years. Bennett opted for Mamadi Diakite to start instead of Jack Salt against Oklahoma and the junior scored 14 points and had nine rebounds to lead the Cavaliers to a 63-51 win on Sunday night. 'Starting is big to me, it's a big challenge,' Diakite said. '(Coach) is telling you, 'OK, you have the responsibility to help the team, and we're trusting you.'' Virginia (31-3) has spent most of this season focused on improving from last year's NCAA Tournament bust. The Cavaliers last season became the first overall No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 against UMBC, prompting motivational speeches from Bennett, who told them the pain of the unprecedented defeat was simply setting them up for amazing success down the road. But the tournament opener against No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb was shaky and Virginia trailed by as many as 14 before rallying for the first-round victory. Diakite started the second half against Gardner-Webb and played well enough to convince Bennett he was had the mental toughness this Virginia team needs. 'To be able to handle adversity or a hard start, that's a separator for a lot of players. He's definitely coming in the right direction, and he was terrific,' Bennett said. Diakite also made a difference on the defensive end. He matched up with Kristian Doolittle and held him to eight points on 4 of 10 shooting after the junior pushed Oklahoma into the second round with a 15-point performance against Mississippi. 'He made it really tough on me to get the shots I wanted,' Doolittle said. There was only one scare for the Cavaliers in the second-round matchup and it was rather mild: Virginia scored the first seven points of the game, but Oklahoma (20-14) answered with a 13-2 run to take its only lead. Virginia cranked up its trademark stifling defense and the Sooners hit just four of their last 18 shots in the first half to fall behind 31-22 at the break. After a Kihel Clark rebound and putback on the first possession of the second half, Virginia's lead never dipped below 10 points again. It was the first time Virginia hasn't trailed in the second half of an NCAA Tournament game since beating Iowa State 84-71 in the Sweet 16 in 2016. 'It certainly felt good,' Bennett said. Oklahoma shot 57.6 percent (34 of 59) to beat Mississippi by 23 in the first round, but the Sooners shot just 36.5 percent (19 of 52) on Sunday night. Virginia's win pushed all four No. 1 seeds into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016 — the last time the Cavaliers made it to the tournament's second weekend. QUOTABLE 'Everybody is talking about a Final Four. But I've never been to a Sweet 16,' said junior guard Ty Jerome, whose Cavaliers have been a top seed two of his three years. BOUNCING BACK Oklahoma lost five in a row in the Big 12 and looked to be out of the tournament before winning four of its next five to salvage the season. 'You would like to go through and win them all, but when you get to that point where you're down and out a little bit, to respond is a pretty good challenge and a pretty good test of their character and their togetherness,' Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. BIG PICTURE Oklahoma: Picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 after one-and-done NBA rookie sensation Trae Young left, the Sooners overachieved to make it to the NCAA Tournament second round. Virginia: Bennett said he told his team when they were down 14 in the first half to Gardner-Webb that they had to pound the ball inside. The lesson carried over to Sunday. Virginia had 32 points in the paint while Oklahoma scored just 12 inside. Bennett is trying to lead Virginia to its first Final Four in his 10 seasons with the Cavaliers. UP NEXT Virginia: The Cavaliers play the winner of No. 12 seed Oregon and No. 13 seed UC-Irvine in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Louisville.